Nicolas Joel, the director of the Paris Opera
© Elisa Haberer
Nicolas Joel was born in 1953 in Paris. In 1973, he was engaged by the Opéra du Rhin as assistant stage director, an activity he continued until 1978 in Strasbourg, at the festivals of Bayreuth and Salzburg and also at the San Francisco Opera. In 1979, he began his career as a stage director with a production of The Ring for the Opéra du Rhin and the Opéra de Lyon. In 1981, he staged Samson et Dalila with Shirley Verrett and Placido Domingo in San Francisco, then Aïda with Luciano Pavarotti in San Francisco, Chicago and Toronto.
He directed a second Ring cycle Ring in Wiesbaden, Aïda in Vienna under the baton of Lorin Maazel, La Voix humaine, Ernani and Parsifal in San Francisco, Eugene Onegin, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci in Amsterdam, Rigoletto and La Traviata in Zurich, Tosca in Lausanne for José Van Dam's debut in the role of Scarpia… In 1994, he made his La Scala Milan debut with La Rondine, then revived Roméo et Juliette at London's Covent Garden and staged Carmen at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
In 1995, he staged Faust in San Francisco, then made his Metropolitan Opera of New York debut in 1996 with a new production of Andrea Chenier (Luciano Pavarotti in the title role). In 1998, Nicolas Joel went to the Chicago Opera for Les Pêcheurs de perles, the Teatro Real in Madrid for Un ballo in maschera and directed Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera. In 1999, he staged a new production of Manon at Milan's La Scala. He also revived Werther and Samson et Dalila in Los Angeles, Roméo et Juliette in Chicago and at Covent Garden and Manon in Madrid (2000). In 2002, he presented a new production of La Rondine at Covent Garden.
In France he has directed numerous productions including Roméo et Juliette, Turandot and Thaïs in Nancy (revived at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and Toulouse's Théâtre du Capitole in 1988), La Damoiselle élue by Debussy and Dido and Aeneas by Purcell with Jessye Norman at the Paris Opera, Faust and the world premier of Marcel Landowski's Montségur in Toulouse, Andrea Chenier at the Opéra du Rhin and the Opéra de Lyon. In 1992 he presented a new production of Un ballo in maschera at the Paris Opera with Luciano Pavarotti.
In 1987, Nicolas Joel was guest director at the Chorégies d’Orange for Der Fliegende Holländer and returned there for Nabucco (1989 and 1994), Gounod's Faust (1990 and 2008), Aïda (1991 and 2001), Carmen (1998), Roméo et Juliette (2002), Otello (2003) and La Bohème(2005).
From 1990 to 2009, Nicolas was director of Toulouse's Théâtre du Capitole. He directed numerous new productions there: Falstaff, Il Trovatore, Elektra, Eugene Onegin, and Rigoletto and Roméo et Juliette with Roberto Alagna. For the re-opening of the Capitole in 1996, he presented Louise and Werther with Roberto Alagna in the title role. Certain of his Toulouse productions drew a great deal of public and critical acclaim: Boris Godunov, Die Walküre, La Forza del destino, Louise, Hamlet (the latter two productions were revived at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris), Das Rheingold, Mignon, Otello, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung and Die Zauberflöte. He re-opened the Théâtre du Capitole, after the renovation of the stage-house in 2004, with Jenufa and presented his versions of Don Carlo, L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Tristan und Isolde. In 2007-2008, after Le Roi d’Ys by Lalo, Nicolas Joel staged a new production of Der Rosenkavalier and revived his production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann first created at Madrid's Teatro Real 2006. His most recent engagements included Daphné and Faust in Vienna, Aïda and Le Cid in Zurich, Rienzi in Leipzig, La Rondine at the Metropolitan Opera.
Since August 2009, Nicolas Joel has been Director of the Paris Opera. During this period he has staged Mireille by Charles Gounod at the Palais Garnier (September 2009) as well as the the world premier of Bruno Mantovani's Akhmatova at the Opéra Bastille (March 2011).
Nicolas Joel has twice received the Prix de la Critique Dramatique et Musicale for his opera productions, as well as a “Victoire de la Musique” in 1996, in the “best opera production” category for Dialogues des carmélites
He is Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, Commander of the Romanian cultural Order of merit, Commander of the Order of merit of the Italian republic, and has been awarded the Grand Prix de l’Académie d’Occitanie.